After years of decline, tuberculosis is thriving again, the Covid pandemic and limited options for screening and access to care, worries the World Health Organization (WHO) Thursday 27. It reports 1.6 million deaths worldwide last year, a return to the level of 2017. This represents an increase of more than 14% compared to 2019.
According to the WHO’s annual report, 10.6 million people contracted tuberculosis – caused by a bacterium that mainly attacks the lungs – in 2021, an increase of 4.5% in one year. Similarly, the incidence rate (new cases per 100,000 population per year) increased by 3.6% between 2020 and 2021, after declining by around 2% per year for most of the past two decades.
According to WHO, “This is the first time in many years that an increase in the number of people contracting TB and drug-resistant TB has been reported.” The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly slowed progress in the fight against tuberculosis.
However, the organization is not losing hope, although it estimates that tuberculosis was expected to increase further in 2022. “It’s time to end this long-killing disease. Working together, we can end TB.”said the Director-General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
WHO stresses that the need for action has become even more urgent in the context of the war in Ukraine, ongoing conflicts in other parts of the world, the global energy crisis and related risks to food security. These elements “likely to further exacerbate some of the general determinants of TB, such as income level and malnutrition.”
In 2019, tuberculosis was the 13th leading cause of death worldwide and the leading cause of death from infectious diseases. As of 2020, it has become the second leading cause of infectious disease, behind Covid-19 and ahead of AIDS, according to a WHO report.